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Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published January 24 2011

North Dakota State College of Science could see new crop of seniors

Senior citizens may soon be moving into North Dakota State College of Science residence halls.

Officials at the Wahpeton campus are in preliminary discussions with Lutheran Social Services to turn three minimally used residence halls into a senior living facility.

NDSCS President John Richman said the discussion began after a space utilization study of the campus showed there was extra capacity in the residence halls.

The three buildings – McMahon, Satterlee and Babcock halls, all built between the late 1950s and mid-1960s – are designed as traditional dormitories and are not the type of residence halls today’s students want, Richman said.

At the same time, the city of Wahpeton identified a need for additional senior housing.

That led NDSCS and Lutheran Social Services Housing to discuss a possible arrangement that would have the agency renovate the combined 93,000 square feet and lease the buildings from the college.

Jessica Thomasson, director of Lutheran Social Services Housing, said the facility would be designed as an independent living complex with some added services. It would not be considered an assisted-living facility or a nursing home.

Richman will report to the state Board of Higher Education on Thursday about the preliminary discussions. Before the proposal moves forward, Richman needs board approval of the final plan.

The buildings being considered are on the southeast edge of campus, so the seniors would have full access but wouldn’t necessarily be in the heart of the campus, Richman said.

From an educational standpoint, NDSCS students in programs such as nursing, dental hygiene and other allied health areas may benefit from future partnerships with the senior facility.

“I see an educational advantage for our students in a number of our academic areas and activities that we do on campus,” Richman said.

NDSCS would also be helping the city address a significant housing shortage, he said.

A housing study identified a significant unmet need in Wahpeton for up to 90 units of senior housing, according to a letter written by Wahpeton Mayor Jim Sturdevant.

The Wahpeton City Council has voted unanimously to support the partnership.

NDSCS also would see financial advantages with such a partnership. The arrangement would allow the college to reduce its expenditures and potentially add new revenue if the facility wanted to contract with the college for other services, such as dining or information technology, Richman said.

And the seniors would benefit from close access to art and athletic events and continuing education op­portunities at NDSCS, Thomasson said.

“We’re excited to explore what this might become,” she said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590